3 out of 5 stars to It’s Always the Husband, a new thriller and suspense novel set to release to the public on May 16, 2017, by Michele Campbell. It’s a quick-read with a few slow spot, but keeps you guessing all throughout the chapters, almost playing a bit of Russian Roulette with who’s behind the whole plot.
Why This Book
I saw it pop up on a few Goodreads reviews. I looked on NetGalley and thought it sounded like a strong psychological thriller. I was awarded the book in lieu of a fair and honest review, which is always the case with me. And who wouldn’t be curious about a book with this title?
Overview of Story
Kate, Jenny and Aubrey were roommates their freshmen year in a New England college. Each girl came from a different background: Kate was a rich NY trust fund girl. Jenny was a townie who wanted to get out badly. Aubrey came from Vegas with little support from her family. Somehow, they form a bond and remain friends over the course of 22 years. The book alternates between when they were 18 and when they turned 40, covering different boys they date, men they marry and the secrets they keep from each other. During that freshmen year, something awful happened, which sent Kate running out of the country. But when they all re-connect years later, the details of the night begin to unravel, especially when someone else ends up dead. This is the story of friendship and enemies, love and hate, secrets and revenge.
Approach & Style
The book is told in third-person limited omniscient, carefully navigating from character to character, telling the events as they were unfolding or did so in the past. It covers two distinct time periods: when they were 18 and freshmen and when they’re about to turn 40. It’s always clear which time period you’re in, but not in an overt way.
The book starts off with someone taking a walk on a bridge. You soon learn this person is being forced off the bridge. And then something happens, but your not sure what it is. Then the real story begins, describing how the girls meet and the subsequent events that occur throughout their lives. You never re-visit that scene in the present time, rather re-live in through each character who was involved via memories and dialogue, explaining what they thought happened.
But in the end, you will clearly piece it all back together — you know who was behind the entire situation. Cleverly told in small pieces, you learn just enough to keep your mind guessing… and when you tie in the title, you’ll keep asking yourself which husband killed someone, but you’re not entirely sure as there are many of them it could have been.
1. Each of the 3 girls are very clear and distinct. You can picture them, you understand their motivation and you know what is likely going to be their downfall.
2. The men are less important, mostly as catalysts to help propel the relationship growing between the women. But as background characters, they all have a certain appeal, be it positive or negative. You get a sense of real people with real problems in most cases.
3. The suspense and timing is strong. The bounce back between periods keeps your mind guessing, even up until the very end when you have 3 pages left and are still waiting to figure out exactly what happened that final night for the victim.
Open Questions & Concerns
1. These girls did not like each other and I don’t buy their friendship. For one thing, Kate was an uptight trust fund baby who tried to play it off like she wasn’t. But she was. There is no way Jenny would be friends with her. Jenny even sparred with her the first few scenes and chapters, to the point where you question why they stayed together as roommates and then as friends. I struggled to believe they would help each other. Aubrey was definitely the glue, and given where she came from, she needed both of them to help propel her life forward. But I really think they would have had other people in their lives to prevent the disaster of their relationship as a triad.
2. The story with the new cop seemed to come from nowhere and go nowhere. He wasn’t very likable. He had no connections except to Kate, which was very unclear. Felt like extra fluff, just to cause readers to not guess the actual mystery.
3. Something is just missing from this story. It’s got lots of good parts. Some of it felt a little disconnected. And I was waiting for a bigger surprise payoff. I was surprised with the final overall explanation. I guessed part of it about 50% thru the book. But it felt like so much time was spent throwing readers off from guessing the details, when a little more should have been spent tying things together a little more closely with some additional emotions, connections and struggles.
Author & Other Similar Books
It’s in the vain of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. It’s a bit more about the friendships between the 3 girls rather than a focus entirely on problems between a husband and wife; although, that does play a significant role given the number of affairs happening over the course of the 22 year period.
As for thrillers and suspense, it certainly has some. The biggest issue was that the 3 girls weren’t all that likable… too much dependency on drugs and alcohol which made me really question why I cared who died and who was the killer. I’m all for drugs and alcohol in books, to match the realities of life, and to help propel the plot… but it felt like 80% of the characters relied on it to move the day forward rather than a background to the emotional and mental drama brewing within the extended group of friends. And that’s how I felt about the book. Too much extraneous and not enough focus on the missing years. So much could have happened and caused the tensions when they turned 40, but little of it was ever front and center.
That said, it’s a quick read… 4 hours, and has some great character development and intrigue as far as which person died, who is hiding what and how will this all end. You only know parts of the final death scene in the beginning and that’s what keeps you holding on throughout the rest of the book.
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